I attend a predominantly white school, but I feel fortunate that even still, I’ve managed to find a network of PoC who I’m really close with, along with open minded white people. We’re a tight knit little group and it strikes me that we all hail from different places and backgrounds. Black, White, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Multiracial…
And over our years here, one thing that has stayed consistent is: food. Every so often, we’ll cook dinner. Some nights, we all cook together, other nights, it’s one of us cooking for all of us. Most of the time, we just cook whatever the hell we feel like cooking, haha. Other times, one of us will get a craving for a particular food that is a part of our culture/region/home life, and that’s when shit turns into a party. Because we generally choose cook the meal not only for ourselves but for everyone.
Even on those days where we all cook for ourselves, it’s not uncommon for us to pack it into a bunch of tupperware and bring it to everyone else later that day or something for them to eat on their own time. Given that we all live in different dorms around campus, that one always speaks to me, because when food delivery happens, it’s generally a surprise.
But when we come together to eat a meal, it’s always fun, and it’s always a learning experience, because whoever is cooking generally feels compelled to share something about it, be it the history, or the traditions behind it, memories, or just whatever information we feel like sharing (and then there are times where we’re just like, “LOL FUCK IT, IT’S FOOD, IT’S MINE, AND YOU GON’ EAT IT OK, IMMA BE OVER HERE ON FACEBOOK WHILE THIS BOILS~” haha). And knowing exactly where the food before you comes from, knowing how it is significant to the person who prepared it, makes it that much better, and it makes you appreciate it that much more. And it’s not only knowing about the food, it’s that they felt open enough and trusting enough of you to share that information in the first place.
Knowing that stuff might seem like a given, but that shit is personal. When you share something born of your culture with someone not from that culture, you’re sharing an intimate part of you.
I’ll never forget when one of the friends, who is from India, was serving up the food she’d cooked, and was telling us her childhood memories of her mother making it, and how it is important in her life. She had the biggest, proudest smile, it lit up the room. And when we were all devouring the food with lack of control lol, I noticed that she stopped eating and was just watching us eat with big warm grin. It’s a hindsight focus of an observation that I hadn’t thought much of, but now, it speaks volumes to me. Especially when I think about it in the context of the many conversations we’ve had revolving around cultural similarities, differences, privilege, etc.
And I think it’s important to note that we never feel like we have to share that history. We want to. And that’s powerful to me. Like I said, your culture, your foods, your traditions, are a shared experience between yourself and those who share your culture, but it’s an intimate part of you. And it’s not something you just give away freely most of the time, at least for my friends? Like, for a few of them, they’ll talk about their home countries with someone, but are hesitant to introduce those same people to traditions, or even the food, because they know the unintentionally offensive shit they’d be hearing if they did, or they’re just not that comfortable yet. Others of them don’t give a fuck lol. And knowing my friends, knowing us, knowing how we are, it’s an honor to be able to have partaken of all these different foods. There’s always this light in their eyes when they talk about it, this excitement, and you can tell they could go on for hours. I know I could!
Thinking back on it, that’s how it was in high school, too. Hungary, Lebanon, Japan…
We obviously couldn’t cook for each other, since we were in school lol. But we’d share/trade parts of our lunches. It was fun, and educational, and just…friendship. It seems like little stuff, but it’s stuff I’ll never forget.
Just one of those things that made me smile.
If there’s anything that has me excited for school to start back, it’s definitely that. I get to make the first meal, and I’m hella excited lol.
My friends and I learn a lot about each other through verbal communication first and foremost, but food is a powerful secondary line that we use. I don’t think people realize how powerful food is.